A SMILE ON HASHEM’S FACE

Unknowingly, those of us in Dallas County are responsible for a one of a kind Father’s Day gift, that is both memorable and priceless. Last Sunday’s microburst afforded us the opportunity to present our heavenly father with a Father’s Day gift that will surely bring a smile to His heart.

For those of us living in Dallas, it took hours of a massive power outage for us to realize how dependent our lives on electricity. Food started going bad because our refrigerators and freezers were cut off from electricity, our homes began to take on heat and humidity, now that they were no longer thermostatically controlled, because our air conditioners ceased to function, our cell phones could no longer receive their daily electrical charge and fuel for our vehicles remained trapped in the underground storage tanks at gas stations, because electrically controlled pumps had gone dead. Imagine if you will, that instead of being painfully reminded of how dependent we have become on electricity, we suddenly realized how very dependent we are on HaShem. Plug in the digestive system instead of refrigerators and freezers, replace air conditioning with a properly functioning heart, substitute kidneys for cell phones and hearts for gas pumps, and one hopefully realizes that how totally dependent we are on HaShem. If we take our life style for granted, only to be reminded how very grateful  and beholden we ought to be to our electric provider, then how much more so ought we, who take the daily functioning of our bodies for granted, be grateful and beholden to HaShem, provider of life! Give the next utility truck you see  a thumbs up and put a smile on the face of those inside; offer up a prayer of gratitude to HaShem and put a smile on His face as well.

The early part of this week, reinforced my faith in the human race, at least those living in western culture.  When confronted by crisis, humans go out of their way to help humans, even total strangers. A little over four decades ago, New York City was paralyzed by a blizzard of epic proportions. A pregnant woman living in a neighborhood in Queens was dangerously close to going into labor. Knowing that they could not count on snowplows to respond some two-dozen able bodied men showed up with snow shovel in hand and began to clear a path for the family car to make it to a major roadway that led to the hospital. A few days ago, I witnessed similar outpouring of care and concern, as strangers were there with chain saws to help others out of harm’s way, when fallen trees were leaning on power lines leading into homes, when trees fell onto cars parked in driveways and when fallen trees completely blocked entrances to homes. What I was unable to witness, but knew in my heart, were any number of situations, where those with electricity offered freezer and refrigerator space and even lodging to others who were left without electricity. As one who firmly maintains that nothing escapes HaShem’s notice, I have every reason to believe that these many acts of kindness, care and concern put a smile on HaShem’s face as well.

It is said that there is a silver lining for every cloud. Here at Tiferet, last Monday morning, the lining was platinum. Shavuot festival services were held in the parking lot, rather than in the darkened chapel, because sunlight afforded those in attendance the ability to read from the siddur. Conservatively speaking, there were at least fifty in attendance, as we raised our voices in prayer. Given the comfortable temperatures, along with a most pleasant breeze, many in attendance were able to experience being closer to HaShem, not unlike our ancestors who stood at Mount Sinai. There were even those who suggested that we consider holding services outside again sometime, independent of any power outage.

Personally speaking, Yizkor services took on special meaning. Typically, the term “Yizkor” is a request that HaShem remember the souls of the departed, whom we have come to memorialize. But “Yizkor” can also mean: “He will remember.”  I cannot help but feel that HaShem will long remember the three-fold Father’s Day gift of our realizing how dependent we are upon Him, of kindness, concern and kindness shown toward others and the most beautiful sight of us davening in Tiferet’s parking lot. And each time HaShem remembers this three-fold Father’s Day gift, it will bring a smile to His face.

THE DEATHS OF THOSE WHO SERVE HIT A NERVE

In the aftermath of last week’s carnage, the city of Dallas immediately responded with a vigil held at Thanksgiving Square at noon on Friday. Over the weekend, any number of clergy in the city held special prayer services at their respective congregations. Kol HaKavod! G-d bless them! As one who has participated and even hosted similar events over the years, I cannot help but feel that as necessary as these vigils and services are, that such gatherings are as much for the average Dallas resident, parishioner and congregant as they are for the victims and their families. Having never met those whose lives were snuffed out last Thursday or those in the hospital either fighting for their lives or on the road to recovery, we feel helpless. In addition to making a statement to the families that we are aware of their sorrow, in addition to reminding society that carnage and mayhem will be met with neither indifference nor silence on our parts, we feel the need to do something. We show solidarity.
Solidarity, real solidarity must not in any way be limited to attending a vigil or prayer service. For those of us who’s hearts truly go out to the families of Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa, why not try to find out more find out the bereft parents and siblings as well as the widows, widowers and orphans left behind? Perhaps funds have been established to which contributions can be made. If you are not a fund person, then perhaps you can adopt a family. After the initial shock wears off and the survivors attempt to return to normal everyday living, why not send a card, drop a note or write a letter? As much as a “mitzvah” as it is to be present at a vigil or to attend a memorial service, it’s an even “bigger mitzvah” to reach out to the stricken families after they have become yesterday’s or last month’s news. A note to bereaved family members from a complete stranger thanking them for sharing their loved one, so that he/she could protect the residents of this city quite often means more than you can imagine.
For those who are react “Jewishly” and go into “pay a Shivah call mode” there’s no reason why you can’t convert a Shivah platter into an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner, assuming the family is pretty much all alone. Better yet, let Tiferet share in your mitzvah. Anyone who brings family of stricken Dallas Police Force officers to one of our many Shabbat dinners throughout the year does so compliments of Tiferet. Just get them here and the meal for both host and guest is on us!
As Jews, we have a unique role. We can reach out to the family and tell them that even though we cannot in any way fathom their distress, much less feel their pain, we do share something in common. Because of our history, we know what it is like to lose our loved ones for no other reason that they were Jews. To those who have lost loved ones for no other reason than they were police officers, please know that you are not alone and that we have a hug waiting for you.